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Adding a citizenship question to the census is an attack on our health care

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Data from the U.S. Census Bureau may not seem political or imminently relevant to your life, but I can assure it is both. The census helps dictate how federal tax dollars are spent, based on how many people live in given communities. And it determines long term representation at the federal, state and local levels. Now anti-immigrant policy makers are trying to make changes to the census that will endanger everyone’s access to health care services; and immigrant communities will be hurt most.

Countless programs depend on the census to collect accurate data adequately allocate resources that we all rely on. For example, Medicaid, a program that one in five women of reproductive age rely on, accounts for 58 percent of census-guided funding.

{mosads}The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also distributes funding for Title X — the nation’s program for affordable birth control — based, in part, on the census results. Other services affected by the census range from infrastructure spending to foster care and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (S-CHIP).


This question is unnecessarily intrusive and will raise concerns in all households — native- and foreign-born, citizen and non-citizen, as well as mixed-status families — about the confidentiality of their personal information and how it may be used by government authorities.

Requiring everyone living in the United States to reveal their immigration status is discriminatory and fear of prejudice and other harsh consequences will likely lead to inaccurate data.

In this current political climate, immigrant families are already living with daily discrimination, threats of family separation and detention, and fear of harsh immigration enforcement. It is no surprise that members of immigrant and other marginalized communities will not be eager to reveal their citizenship status to government workers knocking on their doors.

With fewer people completing the census, the bureau’s data will be skewed, resulting in an undercount of marginalized communities — including many immigrant communities.

Undercounting these communities means less representation and will ultimately lead to fewer public services, including health care. The harm from this decision, if it is not reversed, would be universal, with communities that are already at greater risk of being undercounted – including people of color, young children, and low-income rural and urban residents – suffering the most.

Adding a citizenship question to our census threatens to erase immigrants from our country’s records. If you aren’t accounted for, you do not exist as far as resource distribution is concerned. And you cannot access your rights, if you do not exist.

We know immigrants already have a very difficult time accessing health care, as lack of health insurance and fear of detention and deportation have driven communities farther and farther into the shadows under the Trump administration.

While it may seem like a simple check box on a form, communities’ health and political power depend on the census being conducted in a way that provides accurate representation of the highest quality.

At Planned Parenthood, we believe that no one’s access to services should be compromised because they belong to an immigrant family or community. We strongly condemn the Trump-Pence administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. And we are committed to fighting alongside a bipartisan group of former census directors, our communities and partners to speak against this injustice and call on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reverse this decision.

Bridgette Gomez is the director of Latino Leadership and Engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Tags Health care Planned Parenthood Wilbur Ross Women's health

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